University of Denver

John Oliver's Humorous Take on a Serious Issue

Former Manager, Quality Judges Initiative

Oliver Judicial ElectionsSocial and mainstream media is abuzz with coverage of a recent segment on HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, in which Oliver skewers judicial elections. With clips of campaign ads that range from the absurd to the appalling, and extreme examples of the tactics some judicial candidates have used to garner campaign contributions, Oliver shines a hilarious but no less accurate light on the "horrifying spectacle" of judicial elections.

According to Oliver, "Faith in a strong, independent judiciary is essential in civilized society. . . . If we're going to keep electing judges, we may have to alter our idea of what justice is."

Oliver's piece has succeeded in doing what public opinion polls and empirical research have failed to do: it has captured Americans' attention about the serious threat that electing our judges poses to the fairness and impartiality of our courts, both in appearance and in fact. What has heretofore been a largely esoteric issue is now on the radar of media outlets from Salon to Tech Times to Rolling Stone.

This term, the U.S. Supreme Court has an opportunity to restore some measure of dignity to judicial campaigns. In Williams-Yulee v. Florida Barthe Court will decide whether states can bar judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions. One wonders whether any of the justices are John Oliver fans.

(Warning: video contains colorful and questionable language.)